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Had anyone been present to note the passing of the solitary individual over the low stone wall surrounding the historic cemetery, they would have seen a somewhat tall young man, thin, dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt. And, if his appearance alone proved insufficient to arouse concern in any onlooker, the fact that he moved through the pitted tombstones and weatherworn mausoleums, around the occasional sagging tree, without benefit of a flashlight might well have done so. More alarming still, he carried a shovel propped against his shoulder. At just past one in the morning, though, there wasn’t anyone around to see him or question his motives for prowling the old graveyard, which constituted the sole reason why Brian Alderman had waited until so late an hour to act.
Still, even with the danger of discovery lessened, Brian knew there were other, perhaps greater threats with which he might have to contend, and for this reason more than any other he hurried in his progress.

He had scouted the cemetery earlier in the day, made himself familiar with his destination, so that he now found his way with relative ease to the grave, a mound of disturbed earth blanketed with fake flowers, their plastic petals faded by the sun. Brian stooped to read the headstone’s inscription by the weak moonlight, making certain he had chosen the correct site. Satisfied, he took a deep, contemplative breath and began to dig.

The night air felt cool, but the humidity made it sticky and unpleasant. Brian labored without rest, panting and sweating, eyes and ears searching for anything other than the chirping of crickets and frogs in the trees, the dancing of fireflies above the tombstones.
At last, the shovel struck the lid of the coffin with a dull thud. Brian continued until he had uncovered the entire coffin. The casket appeared to be made of polished wood, but Brian guessed it was just disguised particle board or plywood. It didn’t consist of any metal, nor had the coffin been sealed in a metallic burial vault. Brian exhaled, sneered. A metal coffin or vault might have saved him a lot of trouble.

In addition to the shovel, Brian had brought along a crowbar, a rubber mallet and a stainless-steel spike, similar to what would be used to peg down a tent, only larger. Last of all and most difficult to carry, he’d brought along a rounded plastic container, flat on the bottom, with a protruding yellow spout several inches long. The container, bright red, had letters fashioned along its sides, the warning FLAMMABLE in bold indentation.

Brian lay the shovel aside, lifting himself up out of the grave for one last look around the cemetery. Satisfied he hadn’t been spotted, he picked up the crowbar and tossed it in. Then, grabbing the spike and the mallet, he dropped back into the hole. Squatting beside the casket, he began to pry at the lid with the crowbar. His arms trembled and shoulders ached before the lock gave with a sound like a gunshot. Brian forced open the lid. The body inside, a middle-aged man in a tailored suit, appeared normal enough. The body had yet to begin decomposition, though the features had taken on a waxy pallor. Careful application of make-up had almost hidden the bullet hole just below the man’s hairline. Brian tried not to look at the puffy face. He cleared his throat, spat to the side, and picked up the mallet and spike. Crouching over the corpse, he positioned the spike above the abdomen, just below the sternum.

“Got something for you, you bastard,” Brian whispered.

The first blow with the mallet drove the spike halfway in, hampered somewhat by the body’s garments. The second strike finished the task, sinking the metallic head deep into the corpse flesh. A thin trickle of brownish fluid began to leak from the dead man’s closed lips. Disgusted, Brian tossed aside the mallet and pulled himself out of the grave. He picked up the container of gasoline.

Then the attack came.

Brian got one quick glance at the thing, and then it was on him. A gelatinous, milky white mass with numerous tentacles. It hurled itself, weightless, through the air, latching onto Brian, enveloping him, sucking at his etheric form. A sensation of heat alternated with a sense of extreme cold, and Brian found he couldn’t move, couldn’t even breathe, his lungs paralyzed. His vision went red, grey, black, and he fell backwards into the open grave, landing on top of the dead body. Brian felt his heartbeat slowing, felt himself dying. The phantasm drank deeply, seeking the last of Brian’s living energy…and it found an energy unlike any it had ever encountered, a power it could never manage to ingest. Brian’s catatonic eyes blazed a brilliant, celestial blue, his body emitting an unearthly azure light. The rays stabbed into the creature’s ethereal form. With a shriek of pain that made no physical sound, it detached from Brian and fled into the darkness. Brian lay still, staring up at the stars, as he felt this strange energy leaving him like warmth leaving his body.

After a few minutes, he felt capable of movement. Weak and trembling, he clawed his way out of the hole. He lay on the damp grass for another minute, then got to his feet. Slow, awkward, he picked up the container of gasoline and poured it into the grave, drenching the corpse and partially filling the coffin. Then he tossed in the container itself, dug a cigarette lighter from his pocket and rolled the wheel with his thumb. Moving back, he tossed the lighter into the hole. The grave exploded in a geyser of flames. Brian lifted the shovel—heavy to him now—and tossed it into the fire. Then he began the march back to the wall encircling the cemetery. Try as he might, he could manage no more than a shambling pace.

Brian rolled over the wall, getting his feet under him, when suddenly he stood enveloped in blinding white light, in the midst of which swirled smaller orbs of red and blue. He squinted, shielding his eyes.

“Get your hands up!” a voice boomed. “Do it now!”

A police loudspeaker, Brian realized. A spotlight. A squad car attracted by the beacon of the flaming grave. Damn. Brian raised his hands.

Then his knees gave way and he collapsed, the night taking him.

TheCheezman • February 26, 2020

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